WTC Final: India aim to end ICC title drought

London: The Rohit Sharma-led India will be desperate to break their barren run in ICC events and win the coveted ‘mace’ when they face Pat Cummins’ formidable Australia in the much-awaited World Test Championship (WTC) final at the Kennington Oval here.

Undoubtedly, India’s team has been the most consistent one over the past two WTC cycles. They have also managed to reach knockout phases of major white-ball tournaments over the last 10 years but a trophy has eluded them. On the other hand, Australia will be looking to add to their enviable collection of world titles after missing a spot in the WTC final last cycle.

As far as the competition between the two sides is concerned, India have dominated Australia in the recent past. They have won their last four Test series against Australia — two at home and two away — all by 2-1 margins.

Once again, eyes will be on India skipper Rohit Sharma, who is coming from an ordinary form in IPL 2023 and will certainly have that pressure to lead from the front with the bat.

However, a day before the start of the ‘Ultimate Test’, the 36-year-old was hit on the left thumb while batting in the nets. Rohit, who was taking throwdowns, was seen holding his left thumb following a hit in the nets but he did not appear to be in pain or a lot of discomfort.

According to reports, the Indian captain did not bat after getting hit but it was just a precautionary measure and there is nothing much to worry about. India will need a good start from Rohit, who had a successful England tour as an opener in 2021. His opening partner Shubhman Gill is in red-hot form and will look to continue the purple patch of his career. Though, his technique will also get tested in tough English conditions.

The good thing for India is that Cheteshwar Pujara has spent a decent amount of time in England this season during his County stints. Not only batting, but his advice on pitch and weather will also be valuable to the team. And once again, there will be huge expectations from Virat Kohli, who had a superb IPL 2023 season with the bat. Ajinkya Rahahne has also made his India comeback after an amazing IPL 2023 season with CSK and his experience will be valuable.

India’s top five batters are almost certain but there is a dilemma over the wicket-keeper’s slot. K.S. Bharat’s superior glovework gave him the chance over Ishan Kishan during the home series against Australia, but in English conditions where keepers spend far less time up to the stumps negotiating a sharp turn and inconsistent bounce, India could be tempted to back Kishan’s counter-attacking skills and left-handedness.

On the other hand, the Pat Cummins-led Australia have already confirmed that Scott Boland will take the place of injured Josh Hazlewood. Thus the rest of the spots in their XI almost pick themselves.

In all likelihood, David Warner will open the innings with Usman Khawaja, followed by Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green and Alex Carey –which is a solid batting line-up. The mainstay of the Australian batting line-up — Labuschagne and Smith — were also part of the County cricket in England this season and it will certainly help them in countering the Indian bowling line-up.

And the likes of Pat Cummins, Scott Boland, Mitchell Starc, Cameron Green and Nathan Lyon, form a lethal bowling attack and will test the Indian batters for sure.

Notably, both Australia and India have struggled at The Oval ground, which has hosted 104 matches so far.

India have played 14 Test matches at this venue, winning two, losing three and drawing seven of them. The last time India played at The Oval, it won by 157 runs against England in 2021. On the other hand, Australia have played 34 matches at this venue, winning seven, losing 17, and drawing 14 of them. The last time it played at The Oval, it lost by 137 runs against England in 2019.


India would have wanted Ashwin to spin ball away: Ponting

London: Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting has criticised India’s decision to leave out Ravichandran Ashwin out of the playing eleven for the ongoing World Test Championship final against Australia at The Oval in London, saying the ace off-spinner could have been handy in spinning the ball away from left-handed batters.

Australia fielded four left-hand batters in the top seven — Usman Khawaja, David Warner, Travis Head and Alex Carey, with the first two batters out in the first session on day one of the one-off finale. Instead of Ashwin, the top-ranked Test bowler, India have taken in Shardul Thakur, who got out Warner in the first session.

“Now that they’ve won the toss and bowled, they want to do some damage with this new ball. Because I think as this game goes on, it will turn and they would’ve wanted Ashwin to spin this ball away from the Australian left-handers, and he’s not there,” Ponting was quoted as saying by Channel Seven.

The dilemma of Ashwin being in the playing eleven or not had been a huge topic of discussion in the run-up to the WTC final, leading to contrasting opinions amongst fans and former cricketers.

Image courtesy of Provided

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